Which Huntington hot dogs really make the grade?
Man, this job is fun. Not only the whole “getting paid to eat and drink” gig, but also sorting through all the comments, questions and requests I get from readers.
“Hello Steven! I am working on my master’s degree in Public Administration at Marshall University and have a final paper that asks me to research who has the best hot dog in Huntington based on sound empirical research,” wrote Kate Speece. “So I thought I would consult an expert as part of my research.”
Now that’s my kind of assignment.
“What are your thoughts,” she asked. “Is there a hot dog that reigns supreme in Huntington? I am a Charleston girl, but I see you grew up near Huntington and went to Marshall, so I thought you may have an opinion.”
I got you, Kate.
The first place that immediately comes to mind is Midway Drive-In, an institution in West Huntington that has been serving legendary hot dogs, burgers and more since 1939. I grew up on Midway’s chili dogs, which are pretty hard to beat.
Now under new ownership that is still preserving the drive-in’s storied history, Midway was featured on the Food Network show “Guilty Pleasures” back in 2015, during which West Virginia-native host Katie Lee sang the praises of a “20-napkin meal” she often enjoyed there growing up, featuring a “blissful” dog topped with chili and slaw on a steamed bun.
I’m sure a lot of people would say iconic Stewarts Original Hot Dogs is number one in Huntington – and they are really, really good dogs dating back to 1932. But fourth-generation owner John Mandt Jr. has been in hot water of late over alleged homophobic social media posts (and Stewarts and Marshall got into a tiff a few years ago over the restaurant’s contract to sell hot dogs at home football games) so I told her to include mentioning them in a Marshall paper at her own risk.
You definitely have to throw G.D. Ritzy’s and the landmark Frostop Drive-In into the mix, both within just a few blocks of one another on Hal Greer Boulevard. Frostop also boasts “the best-tasting root beer in America” (truth!) with a giant mug sculpture of said drink perched atop its roof.
And then, of course, there’s quirky Hillbilly Hotdogs right outside of Huntington in Lesage. This kitschy, touristy roadside gem is known for all kinds of crazy hot dogs and toppings, usually delivered with a joke or a song.
It’s also been featured on national food shows, most notably for its signature “Homewrecker” dog, a full pound all-beef weenie on a 15-inch bun piled high with jalapeños, habaneros, sautèed peppers and onions, nacho cheese, chili sauce, mustard, slaw, lettuce, tomato and more shredded cheese.
I’m sure there are fancier restaurants in Huntington offering more “gourmet” hot dogs on their menu, but the places mentioned above are well-known for serving up some of the best traditional dogs in town.
Huntington fans, are there any places I’ve missed? We need to help Kate ace her paper!
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Jeff’s Curbside continues to receive a lot of love in local culinary circles for a variety of to-go foods owner Jeff Crist has prepared at multiple locations around the Kanawha Valley.
His latest move has landed him at 3137 West Washington St. in North Charleston and after this rave review from a loyal reader, I’m finally going to see what all the fuss is about.
“I know you’ve written about Jeff's Curbside before, but I had to let you know about the fantastic Valentine’s Day dinner we recently enjoyed,” reader Jack Cipoletti told me. “My wife and I are fans of his, starting with his Cajun Chicken Pasta and, most recently, his Half-Rack of Ribs. But today's dinner was the best.”
He went on to taunt me with descriptions of an orange and pineapple salad topped with citrus vinaigrette, chicken breast stuffed to overflowing with crabmeat, asparagus with bearnaise sauce and homemade bread pudding.
“These were all featured as a special Valentine's Day dinner, but I hope he'll put them on the menu on other days. We enjoy your columns. Anytime you need a tasting helper, let me know! (I'll bet there's a long line of volunteers ahead of me.)”
Thanks for the push, Jack, because I definitely need a good Cagney’s Cajun Chicken Pasta fix. For those who don’t know, Jeff’s restaurant days date back to that Charleston landmark and its signature dish, which he continues to replicate today.
Also on the menu are a handful of salads, other pasta dishes and daily specials like meatloaf, chicken marsala, beef stroganoff, bourbon salmon and baby-back ribs.
IF YOU GO: Jeff’s Curbside, 3137 West Washington St. in North Charleston, is open for to-go orders from 4-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday. For more information, call 304-590-4160 or checking out the restaurant’s Facebook page.
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Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.